*We claim no ownership over this article, we are simply posting it from High Times.com because we agree with it and view it as a very important article on the Cannabis Counterculture.


Marijuana users are often proud adherents of a counterculture. Indeed, to many in the marijuana using community, they represent THE counterculture. The term goes back to the 1960s, and to many even earlier to the Beat Generation which preceded it. The era of the 60s, and the popular understanding of the counterculture, is often characterized by the social movements that developed around opposition to the Vietnam War, support for civil rights, sexual equality, and sensible care for the environment. An integral aspect of the counterculture, though, is a sense of consciousness that shapes one’s sense of values and personal ethics, a sense that in many respects derives from these historic social movements.


The idea, though, was to transform society. Many of the objectives of the counterculture have been achieved, in that many of its values are now mainstream values; particularly when it comes to civil rights, sexual equality, and concern for the environment.


Another important objective of the counterculture has always been to achieve the legalization of marijuana. This is another issue that is rapidly gaining widespread support, particularly with respect to the medical use of cannabis. Marijuana’s legalization is now on display in many pilot projects around the country, through both new interest devoted to decriminalization and especially by way of medical cannabis policies adopted in many states. The emergence of medical cannabis dispensaries in many states provides society an opportunity to observe legal cannabis commerce in action, as well as opportunities to experiment with different regulatory approaches, evaluate them, and revise as necessary.


When one studies the spread of new ideas and innovations, the importance of trialing and of observing is extremely important, and ultimately influential. Try it out, see how you like it, make a few adjustments – all this help increase your comfort level with the new thing. Whether it’s a gizmo or a public policy, the same factors apply. The same thing holds for being able to actually see its benefits, to observe the new idea in action. The present and emerging changes in state and local level marijuana laws have great historic and practical importance for accelerating progress towards marijuana’s legalization.


Advocates and supporters of legalization should be aware, however, that a transformation in marijuana laws also means a transformation in the counterculture. This is no subtle thing; it should be self-conscious and as deliberate and purposeful as the change in the nation’s laws and attitudes about marijuana. This may seem like esoteric sociological hair-splitting, but the counterculture is being transformed into a subculture. It’s a good thing, a sign of progress, and something that should and must be accelerated.


A counterculture is a group with values and beliefs that conflict with the dominant and majority values of the culture. A counterculture is usually in opposition to mainstream culture. It’s not always defined by a rejection of the primary culture, but is usually thought of as an alternative or different path from the rest of society. They are not always bad for society; in fact calling attention to contradictions or tensions in a society can help address the need for, or otherwise contribute to, social change. But generally speaking a counterculture is at odds with the dominant culture. And this pretty much describes the community of marijuana legalization supporters over the last several decades.


And yet this is changing, and rapidly. Marijuana commerce, by way of medical cannabis reforms and the dispensary phenomenon, is becoming an acceptable and, in some locales, a desirable part of the community. The marijuana community is beginning to be treated by society as a subculture, a group that adds their set of conventions and expectations to the general standards of the dominant culture. A subculture has unique values but also shares the values of the dominant culture. Subcultures influence a person’s life in pervasive ways throughout their life, but not in a manner that is inconsistent with the overall cultural norms of a society.


(The distinction between a counterculture and a subculture is Sociology 101, and part of most such college courses. These descriptions are taken directly from a college intro course textbook: Our Social World by Jeanne Ballantine and Keith Roberts.)


An examination of the overall strategy of the marijuana reform movement reveals that it is based on this distinction. One of the primary objectives of NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance is to change the public perception of marijuana users from that of a counterculture to that of a subculture – normal people who simply use marijuana rather than alcohol as a recreational drug and who are responsible, law-abiding, and productive members of society.


Embracing this transformation from counterculture to subculture will accelerate transformation of the nation’s marijuana laws. Social reality is constructed. Social change is the result of individual choices, expressed through deed and activity. More debate, more public information, more challenges to prohibition, more involvement in the political system, more contact with legislators at the local, state and national level, more encouragement of friends and colleagues to take a stand on the issue – these are how the reality of marijuana’s legalization will be constructed.


Marijuana users are part of this culture, not separate from it. The more they participate in it, the greater their influence. As marijuana users continue to transform themselves into active citizens, they will continue to transform the culture and accelerate marijuana’s legalization.